Archive for March, 2017

American Immigration Experience in Review

Posted in Learning Curve on March 27, 2017 by drycreekherbs

First let me say this and get it out of the way. Cortisone shots make me pain free and euphoric on day 1; jittery on day 2; depressed on day 3 & 4; and cranky, depressed, and jittery on day 5, and very talkative on day 6 (as noted by the facial expressions of my Mah Jongg partners today). My knee doesn’t hurt though. Nothing comes free.

So here is the synopsis of my experience with American immigration. It is safe to say that it was easier than the Mexico version. It does help if everyone is speaking the same lingo. BUT, our USA immigration officers (IO) have a definite protocol. Expect the process of forgiveness to be slow and don’t take rebuffs personally. Do not try to control the situation. Just let it all slide off of you. Do not tell the backstory. Do not appear friendly. Do not show any pictures. Do not offer any explanations. Do not ask to take photos for Facebook. It is like this: Wait until spoken to; answer with one word if possible and don’t think for a quick minute that your story is any more interesting than the last 13,000 immigrants. Then and only then, pivot and move on. When a missing passport is involved, expect a couple of earnest interviews, an oath-maybe two, a search (no orifices, thank God), and a lecture. I keep thinking about refugees.

Do not apply for a new passport during spring break if you live near a military installation. Try to find everything funny and worth it just for the story. Believe it when the passport application says, “Read Carefully.”

Charmin’ Billy, aka my Brother Bill, sent this captioned photo upon my return to America, the land of the brave. 201703272042.jpgHis text read, “Santa Perdida, patron saint of deported gringas.” He is a funny guy. Maybe I should make up a set of Holy Cards to carry in case I am incarcerated again.

Yesterday I went to visit Foy. I was pretty sure he would enjoy hearing my tale of woe. He loved it. He said, “Susan, this is the best worst story I ever heard.” High praise.

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I am Still Bamboozled, Flummoxed, and Flabbergasted!

Posted in Out and About on March 27, 2017 by drycreekherbs

I haven’t written in my journal in such a long time. I think of myself as ‘stalled.’ But now it is time to cleanse my emotional and cognitive palates. That sounded pretty poetic.

I wish I knew how to embed some western tune that would set the stage for an adventure gone badly. Ok, I would play, “I Fought the Law and the Law Won.” I will say the full story wreaks of a 1958 black and white movie…a bad B movie, low budget and no big celebrities.201703271215.jpg

A few months ago, Belinda and I decided to go to Oaxaca, Mexico to a cooking school that Belinda had her eye on for some time. Seasons of my Heart captured Belinda’s attention…seed banks, GMO, farm to table, etc. My interest was to get out of my rut. I did get out of my rut. Now, it is important that I condense this tale.

Susan H happily decided to join us and we met Belinda at George Bush International…I had a quick salad then we went to our gate. I gave my boarding pass and passport to the boarding agent, retrieved both, and then walked out the door on to the tarmac and hobbled up the mobile regional jet staircase. I put my carry-on in the overhead, and took my boarding pass, passport, shawl, and purse off the seat and strapped in. Scarf around my shoulders, passport and flight documents in purse and under the seat in front of me. I used my phone to complete the immigration form. When we landed I retrieved my purse and looked for the passport. Not there. I thought I might have put it in the carry on so once off the plane I started the mad search. Nope. I went back on the plane and with the pilot’s assistance used a flashlight to look under the seats. Nothing.

I waited with S and B to be the last going through immigration. B & S went to the luggage carousel and got their bags. Oaxaca airport is small; the carousel is adjacent to the immigration kiosk. Meanwhile I am explaining the loss to two female immigration officers, who like the US version, are dead serious about their work. The short story: I was not going to be admitted into Mexico proper. I was going to spend the night with them until the 7:00 am flight back to Houston. I sent the gals on to the hotel assuring them I would continue to look and search my carry-on and purse. I was not allowed to open my suitcase for my medicinal vodka. Officers explained that although I was a “very nice lady” some detainees carry weapons. I told them they were very nice too because I wanted to stay on their good side. Officers explained that although I was a “very nice lady” some detainees carry weapons. I told them they were very nice too because I wanted to stay on their good side. are events that happened during my night as a guest of Mexican Immigration. First, they realllllllly were nice to me except for a disagreement about my not signing a document*…to be discussed later.

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• I had to stay in the immigration office on the other side of the kiosk. The office was stacked with file boxes floor to ceiling, 4 desks, a water dispenser, and a floormat with 2 blankets, behind one of the desks. 201703271238.jpg

• A dear United Airline (UA) employee was most helpful. She went to a grocery story and bought me a quesadilla-like taco and a huge container of chilled apple juice for my late night dinner. She spoke more English than the immigration women. She was useful, if not fluent.

• I was asked to give a statement to the Boss I.O. The statement was completed with the Boss I.O’s remarks included….in Spanish. I was asked to sign and date the paper. I said no because I didn’t know what it said. My young UA assistant told me, “It more or less says you broke the law and cannot enter Mexico.” This made me verrrrry nervous. “No,” I said, “I can’t sign something in Spanish that more or less says I broke the Mexican law.” I didn’t know if it also mentioned the punishment due for breaking this law. Punishment—hard labor or what? And how long?

• It was clear I was irritating the Boss I.O. She repeatedly told me I had broken the law. I suggested we call the American consulate. I imagine we/I spoke to the Officer of the Day or a desk clerk being punished with late night duty. He said, no I didn’t need to sign. So, I didn’t. At this point I don’t think they thought I was all that nice and probably a spoiled American woman.

• I was to sleep on a mat on the mat on the floor.

• I explained that it was impossible for me to get down on the floor and NEVER get up without a crane. (This is why I got a shot in my knee today.) This wasn’t popular. The lead officer said they didn’t want me to get sick and I had to sleep on the mat. I said no, and how about letting me sleep on the luggage carousel. No. So I chose to sleep in a chair with my head on a desk. This wasn’t popular either but they did turn out the lights on that side of the office. Oh, and by now the airport is CLOSED. My two immigration guards and two night watchmen were my companions for the night. It is pretty darned quiet in a closed airport.

• About 2:00 am, I heard a lot of noise. The Boss told me to come with her they found me a place to sleep. I anticipated freedom. They had commandeered a big leather sofa from somewhere and it was divine. They set it out next to the kiosk. I slept like a baby for about 3 hours. The younger I.O. pulled the mat out into the hall and napped there keeping an eye on me, I guess. 201703271239.jpg

• I could use the public restroom in the same area but they saw my entrance and exit. The apple juice made for a long night. The airport was very clean…anyway the baggage area, and restroom were clean.

• I am almost to the end, really.

• About 5:45 am I got up to Spanish, multiple, overhead announcements, brushed my teeth, and met a new UA employee… a very nice young man who spoke nice English. He brought me a menu from the airport restaurant now open and I ordered delicious pancakes and OJ. He had US Homeland Security on the phone so I could report my passport missing and so it could be invalidated. This made reentry into the US also memorable**…to be described tomorrow.

• My UA assistant asked me if he could get me anything, maybe a souvenir. Susan H., in a text from the Oaxaca hotel, suggested handcuffs!! Hahaha.

• My UA host told me it was time to board the plane to the US…and the laughs began. He said I had to be escorted to the plane by the police captain! Soooo, in a line we left my comfy detention area and left to get the captain. At the head of the line was the 2nd in command I.O., then me, then the 2 UA employees, each carrying one of my bags. We went out of the building into another where a door opened and a YOUNG, very young, maybe 14 by looks, uniformed police captain (?) joined us at the head of the line. The entourage continued through the airport with onlookers staring in wonder. I sure wish I had a photo. I had on one of my exotic knit dresses because it was comfortable. In a police line, it probably looked very suspect. I did not have to have my hands over my head!!!

• We arrived at the United Airlines boarding gate where I had the police captain waive the need for a passport. I was let through where once again I was on the tarmac; I hobbled up the staircase again and on to the SAME plane I arrived on the night before. Once again I looked for the passport. I was put into my seat and told not to get up. I was on my way.

Reflections:

I never panicked. I didn’t experience any awful anxiety. It was however, very inconvenient. I knew I was not going to make a run for it–although all of this occurred next to the exit door to the runway. That seemed to be a terrible option. I had the good sense to call the consulate. I also discerned it was best not to turn bitchy. “You gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.”

I cried once. I called Len as the gals left to go to the hotel. I cried like I would have if I had Mom to talk with. He did ask me the same questions I had been asked 50 times by IO, UA personnel, B & S, and my own think bubble. Then I cried. He sent me a copy of the passport that we keep in our safe box….it was very helpful but pulled no strings.

This was an expensive ordeal. The United Airline travel insurance does not cover lost passports. I don’t know whether or not I will get any reimbursement from the cooking school (half back but no hotel costs) and I have to purchase a new passport.

I was not shackled at any point nor chained to a slimy rock wall. I was well fed and cared for by UA and treated politely by nice people when not asking me to sign a confession about a broken law in Spanish. The Oaxaca airport was clean.

My officials told me that a year ago a man lost his airport. I didn’t ask what happened to him. I don’t like prison yard stories.

More than one cousin and several friends stated that they would have had a major melt down. That helps me. Also I did write B & S from my quarters and said, “I am very brave.” B. said, “Yes, you are very brave.” I liked that a lot. That and subsequent texts where she assured me the hotel wasn’t too comfortable, hot, and the sidewalks treacherous. She is a good friend. Susan H. told me they cooked rabbit. That helped too.

I have some new thoughts about being an immigrant/refugee.

When I was home, back at the hospital, atoning with my chemo patients; B & S in Oaxaca grinding cinnamon and drinking mescal and tequila, I received a phone called from Susan’s brother in law from the Houston Post or Washington Post. Kenny had tipped him off on the story. I thanked him but said I didn’t think it was newsworthy and it was very benign. I hated to think of national or statewide coverage of my negligence and missed opportunity.

I started getting down about my 70-year-old incompetence. Now when I travel alone, friends and family and really going to do the drill with me. I might not like it even if I did this to myself. Everyone should read Bel Canto.

PS

My passport was found on the SAME plane on Wednesday in Morelia, Mexico during the 3rd cleaning of the airplane. Those skinny little regional jets have many nooks and crannies for things to fall into. The passport is, of course, invalid. UA posted it back to me via FedEX. It is stuck in Houston because of the winter storm. My luggage came back a day late too. Still and all I love Mexico. I may stick with San Miguel de Allende where I know people who might be willing to slip me some medicinal hooch.

Stay tuned for Part II

I Really CAN be a Trooper

Posted in Learning Curve on March 21, 2017 by drycreekherbs

Today I had a shot in my knee. I didn’t even flinch and watched the entire process. Lots of exposure watching and getting chemo..called desensitization. I found out today that because of Medicare regulations, it is necessary to start with shots before any knee replacement.

Now for the Mexico story.